Walmart is pitting two different types of digital price labels against each other at two stores near its Bentonville headquarters to see if they can be controlled through programming as quickly as price changes, saving time for employees and providing accurate, real-time pricing for shoppers. P2PI visited the two locations to check out the pilots.
In the bread aisle of its Pleasant Crossing test store in Rogers, AR, Walmart is trialing the more subdued of the two digital price labels: e-ink tags. About the same size as the retailer’s printed paper labels and positioned one-by-one along the shelf, the digital labels cover prices for merchandise that commands a larger shelf area. They appear relatively flat for digital signage, eschewing color for a streamlined look employing black font and a white border. The look is very similar to the digital price labels adopted by Amazon at its 4-Star stores, resembling visuals on an e-book device.
A few miles away in store number one on South Walton Boulevard, Walmart is experimenting with a more flamboyant digital presentation, this time in the densely packed cereal aisle. There, rather than stand-alone price units, entire lengths of shelf edges have been digitized with mounted LED strips that hang down lower than traditional shelf fronts. This approach is better for shelves with multiple items and fast-moving products, Walmart spokesman Ragan Dickens told Arkansas news outlet Talk Business & Politics. The publication reported that employees at the location indicate that the wider front restricts the shelf space up to two inches and makes it harder to both stock and pick larger product.
Appearing very radiant and obviously pixelated, the digital shelf strips employ a Walmart-blue background. Areas of the strips communicating pricing instead adopt a white-on-black or black-on-white treatment for the text and background color, with an item’s per-unit price highlighted with a yellow background. The strips also depict QR codes linking to more product information, and are reportedly able to play ads and show product reviews — though the latter two were not evidenced during P2PI’s visit.
At store number one, Walmart also is testing three LED projectors that display colorful ads on the store floor in the toy department to draw shoppers into the aisles, according to a new report from Fayetteville, AR-based market research firm Field Agent. Of the four test shoppers Field Agent sent to the stores, three indicated the LED ads would be more effective than conventional, non-digital signs and would create a more enjoyable shopping environment. Two shoppers said the LED ads would be very influential over their in-store purchases, while the other two said they’d be moderately influential.
Field Agent had also sent shoppers to experience the digital price labels, which the majority (seven out of nine) preferred over traditional paper tags. However, the digital supporters were split when it came to which of the two digital price labels were better, with the streamlined e-ink labels, which one shopper described as “clear, easy-to-read,” winning by one vote.
The retailer also plans to test digital price labels in a Neighborhood Market store to see if it’s right for the smaller format, Dickens told TB&P.
Citing insiders, the publication reported that Walmart had previously tested digital price labels in the general merchandise area of a few stores: “One problem reported with those early tests was consistent connectivity within some areas of the store. There was also a report of the tags not allowing a price-change to be made.”
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